Final Exam Preparation: An Interview with Steve Elefson of Summit Educational Group

Final exams are looming and there is no better time to put a study plan in place. We recently spoke with Steve Elefson, general manager and tutor for Summit Educational Group about the best way to approach exams.  

What is the biggest mistake that students make in preparing for exams? Saving studying for the last minute and not allowing adequate time to learn the material is the classic mistake that students make. They see preparing for exams as so daunting and think, “The longer I put it off, the less I have to deal with it.” What they should be doing is breaking the study load into manageable chunks and creating a study plan with a list of tasks that are plotted out on a calendar.  

What might such a study plan look like? It will depend on the subject. For history or science where there are dates to memorize or definitions, students can create flash cards. In math, they should review past tests and quizzes and redo problems, especially those they previously got wrong. The math text also has chapter review tests, which offer another opportunity for practice. In English, teachers typically ask students to refamiliarize themselves with each novel they have read since the midterm exam. It is critically important to know what will be covered on the exam for all courses. Students should ask the teacher if they are unsure.   

What do you think about peer study groups? If the members of the group are serious and not using the session as an opportunity to socialize then study groups can be very effective. This is particularly true when the members of the group are highly motivated. If one person in the group has mastered a particular topic, he or she can teach the others.  

What is the best way to take advantage of a teacher-led study session? Study in advance on your own, so you can come in with questions about concepts you still do not understand. Hearing the questions that other students ask during the session can also be helpful. The session is another opportunity to figure out what the teacher expects students to know and provides further insight into how and what to study for the exam.  

How useful is cramming? I don’t recommend it, however, if students have procrastinated then it is better than nothing. Some students respond to the pressure of a looming deadline and routinely wait till the last minute. This is seldom an effective approach. If a student stays up very late studying the night before an exam then he puts himself at a cognitive disadvantage. The lack of sleep can also have lingering effects on other exams that might come later in the week.

Any final words of advice? Maintain a positive attitude when approaching the exam period. If students find they are stressed, they should be sure to talk with friends, parents and counselors. Regular physical exercise, a good night’s sleep and good eating habits will also help them perform at their best.

Summit Educational Group specializes in one-on-one, in-home tutoring in virtually any subject as well as for organizational and study skills. Its tutors also prepare students for the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, SSAT and ISEE. Contact 1-800-mytutor or visit

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